Penguins beat Canucks 3-0 for fifth consecutive win
March 12, 2017 9:35 AM
Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP
Vancouver Canucks center Michael Chaput watches as Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller during the second period of Saturday's game in Vancouver.
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It’s March, so one of the most common phrases over the next few weeks will be “survive and advance.”
It’s usually applied to college basketball, but it’s also exactly what the Penguins did Saturday night.
Playing the second leg of a back-to-back and their third game in four days, with just 11 forwards due to a relentless injury and facing a red-hot goalie, the Penguins came away with a 3-0 victory against the Canucks.
They survived, and their winning streak advanced to five games.
“We’ve got to make sure that we play a smart, efficient game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We can’t chase the game by forcing things that aren’t there. That’s usually our challenge with our group on a game-by-game basis, making sure that we make good decisions.
“I thought we did a much better job of that tonight.”
Ian Cole scored the only goal the Penguins ended up needing late in the second period on a wrist shot from the point. It was Cole’s fifth goal of the season, equaling his career high.
It’s fitting a defenseman scored the game-winner, too, considering the Penguins were playing with one more of them than they usually do.
During warmups, the team announced that winger Carl Hagelin would miss the game due to injury. Sullivan said after the game he will probably miss at least four weeks with a lower-body injury,
The more pressing concern was Saturday’s game, though. With Matt Cullen and Patric Hornqvist also sidelined, the Penguins were forced to dress 11 forwards and eight defensemen.
“It’s tough,” winger Conor Sheary said. “You jumble the lines a little bit, you’re playing with guys you don’t normally play with and it switches every period. I think we tried to keep our shifts as short as possible, just be ready when your name is called.”
Sullivan said he and his other coaches worked through the lines by committee on the bench, prioritizing energy over gameplan.
“A lot of times, quite honestly, we’re doing our best to try and make sure that we spread the minutes,” Sullivan said. “We look for the certain matchups that we want, but we’re trying not to overtax anybody, especially on a back-to-back night.”
And as if having just 11 healthy forwards wasn’t enough, those skaters had to try and score on Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, who made up for his team’s lack of offensive punch by stopping nearly every puck that came his way.
Miller finished with 45 saves on the night, and kept the score 1-0 until late in the third period.
“That was going to be a problem for us to solve, the way he was playing,” Cole said.
The Penguins eventually did solve Miller, more due to brute force than any brilliant revelation. Sidney Crosby had nine shots on goal, and Conor Sheary had eight. Sheary’s last one finally went in, but only because it came with an empty net late in the third period.
“It was nice to not see Miller in the net for a shot, because he was stopping everything I was throwing at him,” Sheary said.
While Miller made life difficult for the Penguins, Murray shut down any attempt at offense the Canucks threw together. He finished with 27 saves for his fourth shutout of the season.
The win was the Penguins fifth in a row, and moved them within a point of first-place Washington in the standings.
Still, despite taking two points in every game on their Western Canada road trip so far, the Penguins considered Saturday night’s win a bit of a bounce-back game after needing a shootout to beat Edmonton Friday.
“It’s hard when it’s back-to-back, it’s three-in-four,” Cole said. “It’s challenging. I think the will that our team showed was huge in having that bounce-back game to hopefully get us back on the right track and continue to win through the away games.”
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG
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